Sherry, Rioja, Cava and Other Spanish Wine Gems with Interpreting Wine’s Lawrence Francis



Why is Sherry one of the most complex wines on the planet and also one of the most misunderstood? What’s it like to visit the underground caves in Spain where the sparkling wine Cava is aged? How can you choose between Cava, Prosecco and Champagne for different occasions?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Lawrence Francis, host of the Interpreting Wine podcast.

You can find the wines we discussed here.


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  • What was the inspiration behind Lawrence’s at-home podcast studio?
  • How did Lawrence find his way from psychology to the wine industry?
  • What is Hemingway’s connection to the wines of Spain?
  • What’s it like to visit Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, where Cava is aged in caves under the city?
  • What are some of the unique and interesting aspects of Cava and its production?
  • How can you choose between Cava, Prosecco and Champagne for different occasions?
  • What makes the Copa Jerez International Competition of Gastronomy and Sherry Pairing so exciting?
  • Which sherry and food pairing was most memorable for Lawrence?
  • Why does sherry pair so well with food?
  • Why should producers share more about grapes and terroir when talking about sherry?
  • What makes sherry so complex?
  • How do the alcohol levels in sherry compare to Port?
  • What was the goal behind creating sherry cocktails?
  • Why does Lawrence think we should be paying more attention to Madrid wines?
  • How are the younger generations of Rioja winemakers changing the landscape?

Key Takeaways

  • Lawrence reminds us that sherry is one of the most complex, delicious wines on the planet, with its range from dry to sweet, and the myriad of nutty flavours and colours it creates. That also makes it so food-friendly, from tapas to seafood.
  • It would be magical to visit the underground caves in Spain where the sparkling wine Cava is aged. I enjoyed how he gave us an underground tour of the city of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia in our minds. I can just imagine millions of resting bottles in those quiet caves.
  • I found it helpful how he differentiated Prosecco, Cava and Champagne in terms of food pairing and occasion.

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About Lawrence Francis

Lawrence Francis spent 10 years as a Psychologist and Coach before entering the wine industry. He’s been the host of the Interpreting Wine podcast since 2017; helping winemakers with underpriced, undersold or unknown wines address these challenges with compelling storytelling that engages wine consumers. Four years later, he’s now published more than 430 episodes, with more than 300,000 downloads in 150 countries.



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Lawrence Francis 0:00
Sherry is one of the most complex wines out there. So turn is always going to have this amazing length and intensity. But Sherry In the right hands, you can almost just turn it up. There’s so many different colours and different flavours to paint from it. I think they’re on the right track and talking about how well it goes with foods. Food is a wonderful way to hook people and to get them to want to know more about the wine.

Natalie MacLean 0:26
It’s a great way into wine itself, but also categories of wine that have maybe suffered from misconceptions like Sherry has often been pegged as the Oxford Dawn University professor wine behind the books are Granny’s wine or whatever. But it is complex. It’s nutty, it’s wonderful because this range of styles from sweet to dry

Natalie MacLean 0:54
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine, the love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations. That’s the blend here on the unreserved wine talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie Maclean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 162. Why is Sherry One of the most complex wines on the planet and yet also one of the most misunderstood? What’s it like to visit the underground caves in Spain where the sparkling wine Kava is aged? And how can you choose between Cava Prosecco and champagne for different occasions or food pairings. You’ll hear those answers and more stories during our chat with Lawrence Francis, host of the interpreting wine podcast. Now on a personal note, before we dive into the show with the continuing saga of publishing my new wine memoir, so during a zoom call my agent and I had with an editor interested in publishing the book he asked, Are you worried about the controversy? This book is going to stir up a potential backlash for you personally. I said, well, first off, I’m still a Catholic at heart. So I believe that suffering is good for my soul. It’s purifying. And he laughed. But then on a more serious note, I said, you know, what happened to me is part of my story. It’s made me who I am. And I’m no longer afraid to talk about it, or the consequences of doing so. In fact, I had to write this story to make sense of my life, actually, to save my life. But more importantly, elements of what happened to me are still happening to many women. And this story is as much for them as it is for me. In my small but mighty group of beta readers. There are lots of comments on the manuscript, like, I can’t believe how similar our stories are. And how did you get inside my head. And I wish there was a hug emoji are. But it’s not just women who are making these comments. The men who are reading this memoir right now resonate with it, their wives and mothers and daughters. As much as I’d never want to repeat what I went through. I’m glad that some good can come from it. Even if it helps just one reader feel like she’s less alone and can survive what life throws at her. You’ll find a link to the blog post called Diary of a book launch, where I share my behind the scenes stories like this one, about the journey of taking this memoir from idea to publication in the show notes at Natalie forward slash, or 162. If you want a more intimate insider seat beside me on this journey, please let me know if you’d like to become a beta reader and get a sneak peek at this manuscript. Email me at Natalie, at Natalie Maclean comm I’d also love to hear from you if you’ve discovered a fabulous new wine we should all know about a tip that would help us enjoy wine more or a question for me. In the show notes, you’ll find my email contact a link to the diary of a book lunch post the full transcript of my conversation with Lawrence links to his website and podcast. How you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and Youtube every Wednesday at 7pm That’s all in the show notes at Natalie forward slash 162. Okay on with the show

Natalie MacLean 4:56
so before I introduce our guests, Billy, I want to let you know That Lawrence Francis has developed a tool to help wine brands diagnose which of the three big marketing challenges is currently costing the money and attention online. It’s fairly serious issue. So it’s exclusively for winery member listeners of this podcast, or wine brands. Anyone who manages a wine brand, Lawrence is offering a free one on one feedback call to turbo boost as he puts it, your impact online. You just had to interpreting forward slash unreserved to take the scorecard sounds intriguing. All right. So back to our guests. Lawrence Francis spent 10 years as a psychologist and coach before entering the wine industry. He is an expert and engaging the wine Trade Industry online via in depth audio and social media content, generating 10s of hundreds of 1000s of content hours for regions focused on Australia, New Zealand, Washington State, and Willamette Valley, his own podcast called interpreting wine, which is great for both those in the wine industry and for wine lovers themselves. It’s really, really great podcast now has 450 episodes, woohoo, and more than 300,000 downloads in 150 countries. Lawrence has been featured in both wine trade publications and mainstream media, including the Guardian, the buyer drinks business, the Financial Times, and The Rochester Business Journal. Welcome, Lawrence. I’m so pleased to have you here.

Lawrence Francis 6:37
Yeah, very pleased to be here. And great to hear all of those nice things. You’re able to say and

Natalie MacLean 6:43
busy. So you’re joining us from your home in London, England. Is that right?

Lawrence Francis 6:48
That’s right. Yeah, West London.

Natalie MacLean 6:50
So what’s it like you’ve got a funky room there? Is that your podcasting studio?

Lawrence Francis 6:55
Yeah, this is something that really came out of the first lockdown in 2020 over here, and we were sort of encouraged to work from home. And I think that people, myself included, we wanted to make it as nice as possible and make it as ergonomic as possible. So yeah, I’ve got a sort of a studio at home here now. And it looks apart. It’s kind of always a work in progress. When you start getting into YouTube videos and seeing how people have got their home studio set up. There’s a whole rabbit hole to kind of go down with that, but I’m not I’m I’m happy with where we’re at now.

Natalie MacLean 7:29
For those who are listening to the podcast and not watching the video, you can watch the video by the way of this chat. If that’s the case, and you’re not on Facebook and YouTube. It’s live streamed, but you’ve got some funky discotheque lighting in the background that you can change, which is kind of cool. Yeah, that was

Lawrence Francis 7:45
it I showed you and gave you sort of a bit of a sneak preview. depending on my mood. I can change the colours of those. And as we’re sort of seeing in the background there.

Natalie MacLean 7:52
What’s purple saying about your mood right now? That good one?

Lawrence Francis 7:56
Yeah, I think purple. It always feels like it goes with anything really. It feels like you know, you have lavender in the summer and in autumn and it always feels quite kind of cosy colour for winter and spring as well. So it’s one of those Yeah, sort of versatile

Natalie MacLean 8:12
and quite attached to purple myself. Take into the white. When did you realise you wanted to get into the wine industry take us to that moment what happened?

Lawrence Francis 8:21
I think it was maybe kind of the domino effect, really. But I would say I joined the wine industry. The first time that I recorded a podcast, as you mentioned in the intro, I’d been working as a psychologist and a coach for many, many years, I hadn’t sort of gone through that experience that a lot of other people tend to, you know, working in hospitality or being brought up around wine. It always been a little bit of a mystery to me. But the real push the real impetus came when I was living over in Spain. And I was living in Madrid, which if you’ve never been is a absolutely fantastic city

Natalie MacLean 8:57
to visit. Where is it in the country? Is it southeast,

Lawrence Francis 9:00
it’s right slap bang in the centre. And I think for me, it gives me the advantage over Barcelona because you can explore all the different areas and he just brilliant, not your typical sort of boring capital city. It’s absolutely amazing. And I wanted to stay. But the challenge there is that even though I do speak Spanish, I think we’re naturally a lot more confident working in our native tongue. And there aren’t that many jobs for English speakers where you could 100% Go into English, but I found one advertised where it was actually going to be a social media manager for a tapas tow company who were attracting all of these visitors and getting them out there and

Natalie MacLean 9:38
taking them around to tapas restaurants. Yeah, well, this

Lawrence Francis 9:41
is the thing because Madrid is pretty unique and Spain is quite unique because it’s got such a long history and even slap bang in the centre. You can find restaurants like where Hemingway used to drink and they’ve got this sort of hundreds of years of history and you literally feel like you’re stepping back in time. But but to really get the most out of it. You do have to know the line. We did. I think it kind of does put people off. Sometimes I heard Hemingway

Natalie MacLean 10:02
like Spanish Rosae. He would drink Rosato. Did you ever hear anything about that?

Lawrence Francis 10:08
It makes sense because one of the regions that he helped to popularise, and the events are here to popularise the running of the bulls is in Pamplona, and in Avara, which is very close to reoffer. And I know that in Pamplona is wine style that they probably most proud of. There is no other real Spanish, one region that specialises in Rosae, as much as Nevada and as much as Pamplona,

Natalie MacLean 10:33
and the running of the bulls is through the streets, right? Like the bowls are all going through the streets of Madrid. Is that what they want? No,

Lawrence Francis 10:39
no that Well, you do get that in different places around Spain, when they’re said to be in fiestas, which is like on their holidays, basically. But the most famous is Pamplona, so that’s maybe three hours or so drive from Madrid. But again, it’s back to Madrid being slap bang in the centre, you can reach everywhere, Elysee, Barcelona kind of all around. And I ended up wanting to stay there. But starting the podcast as a sort of a secret weapon to get this job that I really wanted. And long story short, I didn’t get the job. But the podcast obviously grew out of that and kept going for more than four years now since I had that interview. And it was really a push to kind of get me out of Madrid and get me out into visiting wineries and having these tours and just educating myself. And as I say, those first journeys, and the first episode is really how and when I entered the wine trade.

Natalie MacLean 11:38
Wow, you are brave starting a podcast, beginning your wine career at the same time. So tell us about the regions you went to in Spain, which were your favourites or describe what it’d be like to go visit those regions as well.

Lawrence Francis 11:52
Yeah, I guess as any person that likes having a good time I started in Canada’s which is the region that’s most known for Kava. So I was wanted to start with bubbles. And again, it was had an inkling that maybe kava a difference of opinion, in terms of is it as premium as champagne, but they’re making it via the same methods? I just thought that that was an interesting story to kind of go and explore. And I went there at the sort of midway through their harvest. So it was still very hot at the time, if memory serves correctly.

Natalie MacLean 12:25
What did it look like? What was the region like?

Lawrence Francis 12:27
Absolutely beautiful. I mean, I was staying in a city called Sansoni. There noia, which is where they do all of the ageing, basically under the streets of the city, which are the very picturesque cobblestone, they have all of the caves underneath the city so that they’ve got like, literally hundreds of 1000s of bottles there. And because of that the foundations of the city are Carver bottles, everybody that you meet there, they all work in something related. They either work at a winery, or they do design or they run hotels, or they run a restaurant, everything is sort of related to that. But then, because it’s so small, you drive five minutes, and you’re out into wine country, you’re out into the sort of rolling hills and it was very green when I was there because it was summer, but it’s just that natural beauty, I would say that you have in all of those wine regions very vibrant as well. And what

Natalie MacLean 13:20
did you notice about kava that makes it unique from other sparkling wine? Say like Prosecco from Italy, of course, you’ve got champagne, you’ve got sparkling wine in North America and England too. What are the fundamental differences in either the way it tastes and or the way it’s made?

Lawrence Francis 13:35
Again, going there with an agenda, not just let me go and visit some nice looking wineries, it meant that I was immediately looking for stories. So I remember the four wineries I visited the first time, you know, the very first winery that I ever visited. They had I think it was something like 400 or so acres of property. Ah, which one was this? So this was for Vegas, summa Rocca okay. And they only had around half of the total area was actually in grapes, which again, kind of, you know, really did blow my mind. So they had all of these other things. They were trying to look after the indigenous flora and fauna, caves. They had sources of water. It was almost like a wildlife reserve. Really, wow, that also had grapes. I’m pretty sure they also had other products as well tend to have olives and make olive oil and all of these other things. So immediately, I just thought that that’s incredible. That’s a story that we never get to hear as consumers. I think it’s worked for them to a degree but often people they’ll just put forward Carver is oh, this is champagne method but a third of the price or it’s a Spanish version of French and it doesn’t get to the I think the nuance and the really amazing quality that you’re based around when you’re in that region. Another producer that stands out was kava Gilera, they’re known for their extended ageing. So again, they’ll make sparkling methods, secondary fermentation in the bottle. And I think the minimum is nine months. But we were trying carvers that had sort of seven years or 10 years of Crianza have time in the bottle to evolve and develop flavour.

Natalie MacLean 15:22
And that was ageing on its leaves. yeast cells basically just done its job it precipitates. But if you leave it in there, you get this really creamy bready character. Is that what you were tasting? Feeling? Yeah, absolutely.

Lawrence Francis 15:34
And it was, again, different grapes to what you would typically have in Champagne. So it interacts with the LEAs in a different way. And it does bring out a sort of creamy nature. And yes, sophisticated nature as well and still quite vibrant because there’s so many organic producers down there as well. And I think that that does put an extra slant onto the final product as well. I was just fascinated to just scratch the surface with those first few producers.

Natalie MacLean 16:03
And now that you’ve tasted many more wine since How would you describe the difference between a kava and a Prosecco? In terms of taste, not technical winemaking methods, but if someone was trying to sort out oh, do I want to get a kava Prosecco? Maybe a champagne? What do you see are the primary differences?

Lawrence Francis 16:22
Yeah, it’s a great question. And I think he has typically tended to be on price that people have tended to put those three in order. I tend to go more by my mood, I would say, so yeah, I think Prosecco is very sort of fruity bubbles or is good fun. It’s more I would say have something that you can kind of have whenever and you can have it by itself as well. The more everyday Prosecco, it’s less for me less of a food, pairing wine. It’s more of a just enjoy it cold and just sort of having having fun. I think, kava. For me, again, it’s usually a little bit more serious, maybe a little bit more structured, maybe there is more of a thought towards food with that as well.

Natalie MacLean 17:06
Like their tapas. And I always get a more earthy nature from Canada versus Prosecco, as you said, being more fruit forward. And

Lawrence Francis 17:13
absolutely, I’m a big fan of thinking about these in terms of like, Hi Fi dials, you know, you kind of probably dial down the fruit with the carver, and often you’re getting, I think, really good value for money, because they will tend to try to do longer Lee’s ageing. So it tried to bring out those more complex characteristics and some really interesting examples. And they’re also open to using Chardonnay. And they don’t only just use the grapes that are most typically associated with kava, which is like you said, Hello, and Patti, yada, Macabeo, these are sort of the three that they’ll normally use, but they also can use Pinot Noir. And they can use International. So sometimes you can get almost in a sense more variety, because you get the sort of the Carver style, but sometimes they still do, I guess try to copy champagne, a bit. So you do get Yeah, maybe something that’s like a London noir and is made with 100%, Pinot Noir, but comes from Spain rather than France. Interesting. I’m not an expert, I would say on champagne, per se, but I think there’s a sort of a stylistic point there. I would say, you know, the real sort of really dry, you know, zero Dosanjh I personally don’t think that anyone does it better than the French and these, you know, really quite linear and real refreshing wines that come from there. And I think they’re really incredible with seafood and oysters. And yeah, I’m a big fan of any of the three kind of depending on my mood and how flush I’m feeling as well.

Natalie MacLean 18:44
Flash Yes, and the colour of the lights in your background. So let’s almost go to the opposite end of the spectrum of Spanish wine. Talk to us about Sherry, what are the misconceptions? What did you discover? Well, I’m going to not do well on this pronunciation but is it

Lawrence Francis 19:00
Hellas is that in Spain, they would say at ETH, ah, that T is like a thing. Okay, and the J if you see a J at the start of a word, it’s quite harsh. It’s like death is, you know, a nice noise that we have in English. So you kind of have to put your shyness aside in another way because we

Natalie MacLean 19:21
just make sure you’re not drinking all the time, because I think all the wine would come back out. But so what is that region like compare it visually or landscape wise to cover? How do they differ in the sharing region in the cover regions? Yeah, it’s

Lawrence Francis 19:34
just to tune in a little bit to the story as well. I mean, I probably only visited three different regions when I was living in Spain and left Spain in 2019. But they continued producing interpreting wine and then visited again afterwards, you know, kind of coming back from London. It was my only trip ever to FedEx was in May 2019. And it was to attend something called the copperhead F I’m sure you’d love the sound of imagine the world cup of sherry and food pairing. Oh,

Natalie MacLean 20:07
yeah, I can get behind that.

Lawrence Francis 20:10
I mean, I’m not come across any other region of the world that does anything like this. But they basically put almost like a call to entry out globally. And they’ll have teams from top restaurants all around the world. So the states, Belgium, Spain, the UK, and these are all sommeliers, some Lea chef teams, so it’s to food and wine. And they’ll compete in their sort of local knockouts, against the best restaurants in their countries. Now put forward their three dishes that have each been paired with a sherry to take you through the meal. So it’s typically from dry to medium to something more sweet, because cherry has kind of got it all. We’re not just going to have dry will have everything. They effectively then they have like a final tournament, the final knockout tournament down in Harat. So myself and journalists from all of those countries, we’re all sort of going around in our teams. And while the competitors were kind of sweating it out over a hot stove and presenting their pairings. Typically, it was Somalia, who would present the parents we were then also in the evenings taken around to different bodyguards, and then during the daytime also got the opportunity to tour around some producers as well.

Natalie MacLean 21:20
That sounds like a very good trip. That sounds

Lawrence Francis 21:23
tough life,

Natalie MacLean 21:24
you know. And so of the pairings that were presented, what are some of the more memorable ones or surprising ones where you thought wow, Cherie with that, like, how does that work? And yet it did.

Lawrence Francis 21:36
Thinking back is a little bit tough for me. So I may sort of misquote some of the pairings and luckily got to try from lots of different Somalis chef pairings. But I think broadly, I seem to remember a pairing that at least had I think it was like a fire gras was the food component. And it was a fairly sweet Sherry actually, that they put with that. I mean, I think that’s something that you do find in other types of food pairings, like a Cream Sherry, is that what they have? Yeah, it wasn’t a sort of an accessory. It wasn’t like a bedroom in it. So I think it was yeah, it was sort of a cream or it was a blend, but it just worked so beautifully together.

Natalie MacLean 22:15
So instead of a so turn, which is kind of considered the class at the sweet wine from Bordeaux, you’ve got this salty, fatty Fogra. And then the sweetness of the wine, I guess the same pairing principles would work in terms of how they go together.

Lawrence Francis 22:29
Yeah, what I’ve always loved about Sherry’s as one of the most complex wines out there. I think sweet wines are always as you say, so turn is always going to have this amazing length. And it’s going to have this amazing sort of intensity. But I just think that Sherry again, in the right hands, you can almost just turn it up. There’s again, there’s so many different colours and different flavours to kind of paint from it. I think they’re on the right track, really, in talking about how well it goes with food. I think we’re on the same page. Food is a wonderful way to hook people and to get them to want to know more about the wine to try a wine and ultimately a great

Natalie MacLean 23:07
way into wine itself, but also categories of wine that have maybe suffered from misconceptions like Sherry has often been pegged as the Oxford Dawn University professor wine behind the books or Granny’s wine or whatever. But it is complex. It’s nutty, it’s wonderful, because this range of styles from sweet to dry, what makes it complex? In your mind?

Lawrence Francis 23:31
Yeah, I mean, I think it was something that you just asked about, and I think we’re gonna look back into this, but I think that the trick they’ve missed, basically, in a lot of the communication, not all of it is actually not talking about the grapes, you know, what they would tend to talk about in terms of its complexity would always be around the blending. So essentially, focusing on what is it that the bodega or the head winemaker, what is their input here, and for many months, in years, almost, you’re not mentioning the grapes, you’re not talking about the grapes here, and you’re not talking about the soil, you know,

Natalie MacLean 24:09
and why we’re talking about the grapes help, in your opinion.

Lawrence Francis 24:13
Because I think, ultimately, my passion and I think what people also tell me is that they want a broad set of stories really from the region, because just looking at what the winemaker is doing, I think is one element is one kind of window into that world. But for me, nothing beats standing in the vineyard and actually having an appreciation of, again, you know, the same questions that you’ve asked me where are we? What does it look like? How hot is it? What’s around us? Where are the grapes? And Sherry has got a fantastic story. You know, you go out into the vineyards and you just see this brilliant white Alberta soil. You get basically blinded, blinded by the soil by the soil and what makes So wait. So I believe it’s the chalk component. And it’s quite as similar. terroir is similar kind of soil to what you find in Champagne. And I think you know, champagne, they’re just a lot better at talking about that and talking about what’s under the feet. You imagine yourself standing there, what do you stood on? What has that place looked like over the sort of millennia. And over the end, I just think there’s just so many more avenues to get in there and really hook people rather than just focusing on oh, we’re blending the barrels together. And that’s where the complexity comes from.

Natalie MacLean 25:32
Yeah, so for anyone who’s not familiar with the Solera system, it’s a fractional blending where, you know, you always have some old Sherry, I’m probably going to not get this quite right. But it’s always going into the newer barrels so that the average age is a mix of vintages, that itself is quite complex. And it’s interesting, but you’re right. There’s more to it than just that.

Lawrence Francis 25:52
Yeah, that is in itself of a fascinating story. But I personally think that again, you know, making communication relatable. I don’t think that’s the place to start. I think that you bring that in, and you maybe you use that as your seasoning, further down the line. But I don’t think that’s the starter. That’s not the aperitif. That’s not what you get two people straight at the start. And that has been my experience, rightly or wrongly, is that that is where they’ll always start. And I just think it’s like, Okay, let’s get some context first and

Natalie MacLean 26:23
right. Yeah, it’s almost like starting with the machinery or something. Not that wine is meant to be an industrial product. But I mean, I remember going to so many wineries want to take you to either the presses or the bottling line. It’s like, I don’t need to see another line seriously. But over your tastings, what have you enjoyed Sherry, with? Which pairings Have you really loved? And what style of sherry was it?

Lawrence Francis 26:49
Last year, I did the Spanish wine scholar. And I think that that kind of reignited my love. And I always come back to I would say the drier styles of sherry, and the dryness of the mall, the mountaineer and the finos, I think they’re fantastic. And your classic airing, there is going to be you know, some some really nice omens, some olives, and tap us that maybe have a kind of a seafood component as well. So maybe some macro, and they just like that sort of lipsmacking salinity that you get from the wines that, you know, it’s like you bottled her breath, and you bottled under Lucia in a bottle, and you’ve taken it all around the world. And you can just sort of crack that open and transport yourself back then. So I think those definitely do always have a place in my heart.

Natalie MacLean 27:36
My mouth is watering as you described. And isn’t Sherry tends to be lower in alcohol than poor like it is a fortified wine, but still, doesn’t it come in like port is 19 20% is Sherry tend to be Yeah, like 15 to 17% alcohol,

Lawrence Francis 27:52
the two styles that I mentioned there, they will be 15%. And then you’ll sort of gradually increase something that’s maybe slightly stronger would be an all or so star, which is then you’re getting into the more sort of nuttier more complex characteristic, but that I believe only is going to be around sort of 17 and a half percent. So only but yeah, as you say, yeah, it’s all about context. And I think, as well, maybe, again, slightly differently to pour. I think just that element of you’ve always, pretty much you’ve always got food on the plate in front of you. I think that helps as well, isn’t it ultimately? Yes,

Natalie MacLean 28:26
yeah. For absorbing? And yeah, absolutely. Would you ever drink Sherry thrown a meal, I mean, it’s 17%. So you just maybe have a slash at the beginning or something at the end.

Lawrence Francis 28:40
These were conversations that I had, I got to produce a seven part from memory series while I was down there. So as well as attending the competition and getting to sort of, you know, trail, those pairings actually got to speak to the then head of the conceptual regulador. So the person who has the strategic brain of sherry and one of the things that they’ve been focusing on is Yeah, broadening out the appeal, and really kind of this can take you through different courses, but also working with mixologists to put it forward as an ingredient in cocktails. So actually, just broadening I guess, the opportunity, the window that you’ve got to hook somebody and get them drinking more Sherry, so yeah, I would. Absolutely. I don’t think I’d get back into Spain if I didn’t say this, but I’d absolutely have Cherie through a meal. I think that there are so many styles, and then have a sherry cocktail.

Natalie MacLean 29:33
Exactly. The cocktails are interesting, because that’s going to broaden your base as a product to younger generations. And I would think that Sherry itself is a perhaps a base ingredient would be far more complex and adding to those cocktails than a lot of other syrupy concoctions. What kind of cocktails really worked well with Sherry, like what were they doing with them?

Lawrence Francis 29:55
I’m gonna have to pass. I’ll be honest with you, maybe they were so good that I Can’t remember the the, I can’t remember the names of them. But that being said, I do remember, like what they were looking for. They were always looking for this kind of umami characteristic that you get that again, you know, I’m sure you’ve explored this naturally in the past, you know, it’s like the words that we use to describe wines and the feel and that kind of minerality salinity. Yeah, that’s it, it’s pretty much a fact that a you have that as a component of food or as part of a cocktail, you can make something that’s just much more complex. And secondly, I don’t think there are so many drinks and categories and types of ingredient that will give you that flavour. So it’s almost like it’s an extra toolkit in the mixologists belt when they’re creating these drinks.

Natalie MacLean 30:46
I love that I am going to look for a sherry based cocktail. The next time I’m in I don’t know, Manhattan, or somewhere.

Lawrence Francis 30:52
Yeah, I’m sure you’ll find one. I think it’s just interesting that they’ve taken that approach. It does really seem to be working for them.

Natalie MacLean 31:00
Cool. Well, I want to get to your other regions. But it’s fascinating that deep dive and share it into Spain rather, is there anything else you want to add about Spain before we move on to I don’t know where you want to go next Austria?

Lawrence Francis 31:12
Yeah, we did during the spectrum travel is something I would mention, and it’s somewhere I’ve been to a couple of times now, when I was living there. And also on a return visit. It’s actually Madrid as a winemaking region. I don’t think that it necessarily gets the attention that it deserves. Spain is overall it’s one of the highest countries in Europe,

Natalie MacLean 31:32
just to have the most vineyard planted in the world.

Lawrence Francis 31:36
I think you’re right, actually. Yeah, it is. It is. It makes sense. But they also have many of the older plantings as well, so they don’t produce the most in the world. But that’s France, belief. So yeah, but they have the older vineyards that maybe it’s slightly less productive, they get less grapes off. And so as a result, less wine but Madrid is the city itself is sort of 700 or so metres above sea level. And then around them, they’ve got a mountain range, you’re looking at sort of grapes that are coming from 1000 1100 metres 500 metres high, right up there, where they get this amazing light coming through. And they make these incredible, predominantly gone. naturae single varietals,

Natalie MacLean 32:19
like ganache, the Spanish word for Krzanich.

Lawrence Francis 32:21
Yeah, yeah, they would argue that it’s got natural because apparently, Spain has got the oldest genetic material in the world that’s ever been found. But we’ll leave them to do argue that one out. But you can find these wines internationally as well. I know that in the States and in Canada, you can get these and you know, really say it’s worth checking out ganache from Madrid, you’ll often see the region describe the Sierra de Kratos, that’s the name of the mountain range. There’s some really cool producers out there. So definitely worth checking out. Yeah. Wow, that’s

Natalie MacLean 32:55
worth seeking out. Sounds fascinating. Did you get the visit real hot before we move off Spain?

Lawrence Francis 33:01
I did actually, the most in depth of my visits was actually last year was actually the start of 2020. So February 2020. Yeah, visited a number of wineries and yeah, did a couple of interviews. While I was there, I think it’s a really interesting place in terms of its evolution as well, it feels as though generationally, there’s shifts happening and there’s, you come across a lot more of the sort of the younger generation coming through

Natalie MacLean 33:30
and, and how are they changing the style of the way,

Lawrence Francis 33:33
I think they’re moving away from new oak, which has always tended to be the characteristic of real herb where they would use a lot of new American oak, and they would use the new one, which would imparts a really strong characteristic on the wine. But it also means then that for it to be sort of accessible, and you know, drinking at its best, you’ve got to wait a really long time. And that’s why you I think you have the some fantastic wines that, you know, the May 20 years past the vintage and they’re drinking beautifully. But I think if you step away from the new oak in the beginning, then actually you’re going to make something that’s more drinkable, earlier, or it’s in its kind of peak drinking window earlier. And I think also even just not using ochre at all, you know, using concrete and just using inert containers in ageing vessels. You know, there’s all sorts of experimentation going on there. And I think it’s one of those regions where you scrape away the surface of that quite traditional exterior, and you actually find that there’s a lot of innovation happening.

Natalie MacLean 34:36
Yeah, because traditionally, Rio has kind of classified according to how long it’s been aged, usually in Oak, like Crianza, reserve and so on. And I would think that if you’re not using new oak or no oak at all, the wine as you say, is going to be drinking more immediately, but also more accessible, perhaps to again, younger generations who may not want that heavy oak taste up. Front, I think it would broaden its appeal as well.

Lawrence Francis 35:03
100%. And I actually think there’s also an interesting point to be made around marketing and around how they communicate as well, because you’re quite right, it used to be that you kind of had to have a reserve, or grand reserve. And that was a key or that was even the deciding point around how much you could sell it for and whether or not people would buy it. And I just think that as brand has become so much more important, you know, I see and I’ve come across many wineries that they say, Look, we have our style, as you say, we want it to be more accessible. We don’t want this to be such a heavy style, we could put reserver or grand reserve or or we could go for that. But we’re not going to we want it to be our style. And we want to have real hair on that label. But we don’t need and we don’t want to because stylistically to have and go for that grand reserve we want to kind of make our own wine and they say that the you know, people respect them for that and will still buy it. It’s not a sort of a life or death situation as I think it may have once been.

Natalie MacLean 36:08
Right. Wow. Fascinating. Okay.

Natalie MacLean 36:17
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed our chat with Lauren’s here are my takeaways. Lawrence reminds us that Sherry is one of the most complex delicious wines on the planet with its range from dry to sweet and the myriad nutty and other flavours and colours that it creates. That also makes it so food friendly from tapis to seafood. To it would be magical to visit the underground caves in Spain where the sparkling wine Kava is aged. I enjoyed how it gave us kind of an underground tour of the city. In our minds, I can just imagine the millions of resting bottles in those quiet caves. And three, I found it helpful how we differentiated Prosecco, cava and champagne in terms of food pairings and occasions. In the shownotes, you’ll find my email contact a link to the post Diary of a book launch a full transcript of my conversation with Lawrence links to his website and podcast. How you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube Live every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the show notes at Natalie forward slash or one six to email me if you have a sip dip question or want to be a beta reader of my new memoir at Natalie and Natalie You won’t want to miss next week when we continue our conversation with Lawrence. In the meantime, if you missed episode 18 go back and take a listen. I chat about don’t don’t ah wine and dieting, including diets such as the Keto paleo gluten free Atkins, South Beach. In other words, does why make you fat? Just trying to be helpful here in case you’ve made some new year’s resolutions, there’s good news. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite. Regular moderate wine drinkers tend overall to be slimmer than teetotallers. According to a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and 1991 Harvard study, which followed 138,000 men and women over 10 years, found that increasing their alcohol intake didn’t cause the subjects to gain weight. In fact, the women decreased their body weight by an average of 15%. Instead of gaining the weight predicted, according to the calories they consumed. Intriguingly, the men’s weight stayed the same. Scientists are mystified about this because it runs counter to the expectation of wine being fattening since it does add calories and should give us the munchies. Wine raises blood sugar levels, and then drops them quickly which can result in food cravings. One reason for the lack of weight gain may be that the human body treats alcohol, like a toxin. If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wines we discussed. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your class this week. Perhaps an Amontillado sharing.

Natalie MacLean 39:35
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at Natalie forward slash subscribe. Maybe here next week. Cheers.